Walking the Florentine streets, we came across many things of interest. A few Irish pubs selling Kilkenny, a great Irish beer that is unfortunately not exported to the U.S. My mother’s new favorite digestif, limoncello – a sweet essence of summer lemon groves liqueur that may be the closest drink we have to Ray Bradbury’s dandelion wine. Christmas lights strung across the narrow streets, lighting the window shoppers, low-hanging constellations in blue and white. Taking the advice of my brother’s roommate, we took special care in crossing the streets – many Florentines zip through the city on scooters like rabbits late for very important dates – occhio!
In Piazzale Michelangelo, above the city and across the river, a green copper copy of the David stands above kitsch booths and buskers – we heard delicate classical guitar played by a focused youth with his back to the views. This piazza and the cemetery higher up on the hill are not to be missed.
From the banks and bridges of the river Arno, we caught frequent glimpses of the Duomo and the crenellated tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, admired skullers from the world-champion Florentine crew club and the reflection of Ponte Vecchio on the still waters of a cloudy day. My brother and I also saw some locals feeding imperial Roman quantities of bread to a flock of pigeons and a family of nutria – rats of the sky and rats of the water. Brilliant.
Perhaps the oddest aquatic sight was the giant catfish we saw pulled from the river by Hemingway’s Italian old man. I would not have thought such a beast possible in those waters. Leaving the fish up from the water’s edge, the fisherman waded back to shore through a whorl of gulls. He was loaded down with long rods, a cooler, a net large enough to seine for shrimp. He rode off on his bicycle and we did not stay to see whether or not he returned for his catch.